It is to provide these opportunities that God has placed among us the poor, the unfortunate, the sick, and the suffering. They are Christ's legacy to His church, and they are to be cared for as He would care for them. In this way God takes away the dross and purifies the gold, giving us that culture of heart and character which we need.
The Lord could carry forward His work without our co-operation. He is not dependent on us for our money, our time, or our labour. But the church is very precious in His sight. It is the case which contains His jewels, the fold which encloses His flock, and He longs to see it without spot or blemish or any such thing. He yearns after it with unspeakable love. This is why He has given us opportunities to work for Him, and He accepts our labours as tokens of our love and loyalty.
In placing among us the poor and the suffering, the Lord is testing us to reveal to us what is in our hearts. We cannot with safety swerve from principle, we cannot violate justice, we cannot neglect mercy. When we see a brother falling into decay we are not to pass him by on the other side, but are to make decided and immediate efforts to fulfil the word of God by helping him. We cannot work contrary to God's special directions without having the result of our work reflect upon us. It should
be firmly settled, rooted, and grounded in the conscience, that whatever dishonours God in our course of action cannot benefit us.
It should be written upon the conscience as with a pen of iron upon a rock, that he who disregards mercy, compassion, and righteousness, he who neglects the poor, who ignores the needs of suffering humanity, who is not kind and courteous, is so conducting himself that God cannot co-operate with him in the development of character. The culture of the mind and heart is more easily accomplished when we feel such tender sympathy for others that we bestow our benefits and privileges to relieve their necessities. Getting and holding all that we can for ourselves tends to poverty of soul. But all the attributes of Christ await the reception of those who will do the very work that God has appointed them to do, working in Christ's lines.
Our Redeemer sends His messengers to bear a testimony to His people. He says: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." Revelation 3:20. But many refuse to receive Him. The Holy Spirit waits to soften and subdue hearts; but they are not willing to open the door and let the Saviour in, for fear that He will require something of them. And so Jesus of Nazareth passes by. He longs to bestow on them the rich blessings of His grace, but they refuse to accept them. What a terrible thing it is to exclude Christ from His own temple! What a loss to the church!
Good works cost us a sacrifice, but it is in this very sacrifice that they provide discipline. These obligations bring us into conflict with natural feelings and propensities,
and in fulfilling them we gain victory after victory over the objectionable traits of our characters. The warfare goes on, and thus we grow in grace. Thus we reflect the likeness of Christ and are prepared for a place among the blessed in the kingdom of God.
Blessings, both temporal and spiritual, will accompany those who impart to the needy that which they receive from the Master. Jesus worked a miracle to feed the five thousand, a tired, hungry multitude. He chose a pleasant place in which to accommodate the people and commanded them to sit down. Then He took the five loaves and the two small fishes. No doubt many remarks were made as to the impossibility of satisfying five thousand hungry men, besides women and children, from that scanty store. But Jesus gave thanks and placed the food in the hands of the disciples to be distributed. They gave to the multitude, the food increasing in their hands. And when the multitude had been fed, the disciples themselves sat down and ate with Christ of the heaven-imparted store. This is a precious lesson for every one of Christ's followers.
Pure and undefiled religion is "to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." James 1:27. Our church members are greatly in need of a knowledge of practical godliness. They need to practise self-denial and self-sacrifice. They need to give evidence to the world that they are Christlike. Therefore the work that Christ requires of them is not to be done by proxy, placing on some committee or some institution the burden that they themselves should bear. They are to become Christlike in
character by giving of their means and time, their sympathy, their personal effort, to help the sick, to comfort the sorrowing, to relieve the poor, to encourage the desponding, to enlighten souls in darkness, to point sinners to Christ, to bring home to hearts the obligation of God's law.
People are watching and weighing those who claim to believe the special truths for this time. They are watching to see wherein their life and conduct represent Christ. By humbly and earnestly engaging in the work of doing good to all, God's people will exert an influence that will tell in every town and city where the truth has entered. If all who know the truth will take hold of this work as opportunities are presented, day by day doing little acts of love in the neighbourhood where they live, Christ will be manifest to their neighbours. The gospel will be revealed as a living power and not as cunningly devised fables or idle speculations. It will be revealed as a reality, not the result of imagination or enthusiasm. This will be of more consequence than sermons or professions or creeds.
Satan is playing the game of life for every soul. He knows that practical sympathy is a test of the purity and unselfishness of the heart, and he will make every possible effort to close our hearts to the needs of others, that we may finally be unmoved by the sight of suffering. He will bring in many things to prevent the expression of love and sympathy. It is thus that he ruined Judas. Judas was constantly planning to benefit self. In this he represents a large class of professed Christians of today. Therefore we need to study his case. We are as near to Christ as he was. Yet if, as with Judas, association with Christ does not make us one with Him, if it does not cultivate within our hearts a sincere sympathy for those for whom
Christ gave His life, we are in the same danger as was Judas of being outside of Christ, the sport of Satan's temptations.
We need to guard against the first deviation from righteousness; for one transgression, one neglect to manifest the spirit of Christ, opens the way for another and still another, until the mind is overmastered by the principles of the enemy. If cultivated, the spirit of selfishness becomes a devouring passion which nothing but the power of Christ can subdue.